Two New Zealanders will play a part in launching a high-profile project that aims to use football to help mobilise climate activism across the planet.
The Ball is the name given for the year-long project that is football’s equivalent of the Olympic torch, and it involves thousands of footballers who will kick the ball from London to Auckland, arriving in time for the start of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The first kick of the ball will be taken by Football Fern Katie Rood at a special festival on Sunday July 10 (UKT) at London’s Battersea Park where the first-ever official game of football was held.
Rood (29) currently plays for Scottish club Hearts, after a promotion-winning season with Southampton.
The task of getting the ball on its epic journey across the world will fall to former New Zealand U-20 international Andrew Aris, the president and founder of the award-winning group Spirit of Football.
Since 2002, SoF (an education and advocacy not-for-profit organisation) has taken balls around the world to five World Cups. This year it will not go to the Qatar tournament but will instead head for Australia and New Zealand, co-hosts of the women’s World Cup.
Urging them on will be many organisations, thousands of footballers and Spirit of Football’s ambassador, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp who says: “Together we want to get this fair play ball rolling. It is a ball for us all. Be part of our team. Everyone can play. Respect your teammates, your opponents and the environment. One Ball, One World.”
The Ball’s journey across the world will help promote fairness, gender equality, sustainability and climate action, as supporters collect climate pledges and signatures on the ball itself.
More than 50 partner organisations and individuals from more than 30 countries will work together to take action on three of the Sustainable Development Goals set out in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly: Climate Action, Gender Equality and Fair Play.
Says Aris: Spirit of Football fuses the global force of sport, with the pressing need for climate action – and at the kick off event, we will be promoting our climate message, showing that the beautiful game has the power to raise the awareness that leads to real change.”
The Battersea Park event will be a mixture of football, fun and the sharing of key messages.
The day will begin with football activities and games, followed by entertainment including a performance by American musician Keller Williams, poetry and facilitated discussions about sport and climate action.
Once The Ball is officially kicked off by Katie Rood, anyone in the park can sign The Ball.
By the time it reaches Auckland, it will be covered entirely by different coloured inks and patterns.
And if Aris and his supporters have their way, many thousands will have heard the message it carries.
How to get involved
Andrew Aris is coming to New Zealand with The Ball from July to August 2023.
He is keen to hear from those in the New Zealand football community who see opportunities to be part of The Ball’s journey — by taking it to New Zealanders, hosting workshops at clubs or by helping spread its messages.
Rather than suggest specific ways the community can get involved, Aris poses the challenge:
“We always say: ‘Imagine The Ball is at your feet; what are you going to do with it?’”
He can be reached by email here >>>>